The toxic effects of bias make headlines every day: sexual harassment, racial profiling, the pay gap. As humans, we are biased but can we de-bias our brains?
[NOTE: Due to copyrights, the full film has been removed on April 26.]
By Robin Hauser
While making and screening my previous film, CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap, I spent two years traveling the globe talking to people about the lack of diversity in the tech industry. When I spoke with experts and audiences, one term kept surfacing: unconscious bias. Unconscious—or implicit—bias, I was told, is the underlying precursor to many of the “-isms” that plague our society: sexism, racism and ageism.
I consider myself a fair person, but the more I learned about implicit bias, the more I saw how it influenced my life. My closest friends are a lot like me. I make assumptions about people based on their appearances and where they grew up. I began to wonder: what biases do I have that I am not aware of, and how do they affect my choices and actions? From these questions, “Bias” was born.
To make the film, I interviewed renowned scientists who introduced
me to tests and innovative tools that unveil and measure bias. I took several Implicit Association Tests, which uncovered some deeply rooted biases I held. I sought out an experimental virtual reality lab at the University of Barcelona and saw myself, a white woman, with black skin. I experienced crime simulation in a deadly force decision-making training for police and learned the risks of following my gut.
Because I’m human, I will never be able to be completely fair and objective. I have learned, however, that by better understanding my biases, I can work to counteract them. I can slow down and question my snap judgements. I can seek diverse perspectives, and I can cultivate empathy for people who are not just like me.
Initially, I felt hopeful that I would learn the cure for implicit bias. Ultimately, I learned that there is not just one solution or call to action. Despite decades of research and technology, there isn’t a panacea for human bias. We all have bias; that much is certain. The question I now ask myself is: what am I going to do about it?
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